Sirisena’s conundrum
Posted on June 18th, 2016

Island editorial Courtesy The Island

The possible reappointment of Mr. Arjuna Mahendran to a six-year term as Governor of the Central Bank has triggered more flak about a public appointment than any other in memory. Soon after the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime was dethroned in January last year, the then high profile Ajith Nivard Cabraal, who was perhaps the most politicized holder of that office ever, submitted his resignation. Mahendran was appointed to serve the balance of Cabraal’s term which would have ended on June 30. The question now is whether he would be reappointed, ostensibly to serve a full term or to be eased out in the short term after a face saving maneuver where he would opt to resign and possibly become Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK as is speculated. In the first instance, he was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s nominee for the job. It has been said that President Maithripala Sirisena wished to see Mahendran’s back when the bond scandal, where a company belonging to his son-in-law made mega bucks, surfaced. But he survived thanks to the prime minister’s backing.

The president is now on the horns of a dilemma with several SLFP ministers of the government he heads demanding that Mahendran be not reappointed. Additionally, civil society activists who played a major role in electing Sirisena president, met the president and prime minister together on Friday to urge the governor was not reappointed. They won no promises. Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development Eran Wickremaratne who enjoys an excellent reputation both for ability and probity, was intensively grilled by reporters at a Sirikotha press conference on Friday on whether Mahendran was being reappointed or not. Carefully walking a tightrope, he declined to offer his own thoughts on whether the incumbent should be granted further tenure. He merely said that he would share his views with the president who is the appointing authority and no other. In taking this decision, the president would have to take several considerations into account – first whether Mahendran wishes to serve six more years. Then Sirisena would have to measure the governor’s success through the country’s economic progress during his tenure as well as the bank’s institutional performance.

Wickremaratne was strongly critical of the SLFP going public on their desire to see Mahendran go. He saw this as a gross violation of collective responsibility. Theirs was a coalition government taking common decisions and cabinet ministers, particularly, as members of the executive branch of the government had a particular duty of collective responsibility. Decisions were not about getting political mileage for themselves. The issue was neither a UNP problem nor an SLFP problem “It is a question about the future of our country.” As to whether Mahendran would have a further stay at the crease, the former Royal College opening batsman virtually said that either Royal will win the match, or S. Thomas’ will win or it will be a draw! No light whatever on what is going to happen was shed. So the question remains wide open as the drama builds up. Will Sirisena tell Wickremesinghe to nominate somebody else he likes and he would make the appointment? That, of course, would be an obvious compromise. Or will there be a face saving maneuver such as that stated at the beginning of this comment? Although a High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, a businesswoman who is a relative of the prime minister, was named many moons ago she has not assumed office for several months. We also don’t know whether Mahendran will be a taker of that or any other appointment. Also, the question arises: “If not him, then who?” Will it be from within the bank or outside?

Unfortunately the parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprise, then headed by Mr. Dew Gunasekera of the Communist Party, which was investigating the bond matter became functus when parliament was dissolved. Gunasekera put out a report in what looked too much like an effort by the side that lost the presidential election trying to score points over the winning side. It bore no signatures of none UPFA members of COPE. However, a new COPE from the incumbent parliament has resumed the investigation under the chairmanship of the JVP’s Sunil Handunneti and will in due course reach a conclusion. Mahendran did himself no credit by his son-in-law resigning from the board of Perpetual Treasuries, the company involved in the alleged scam, after the smelly stuff hit the fan. This was a patently cosmetic gesture in the face of the fact that this company was a subsidiary of a holding company in which the son-in-law was half owner. His claim that the Supreme Court had cleared him of wrongdoing was also incorrect. Public interest activist Chandra Jayaratne had instituted a fundamental rights action in the Supreme Court praying that the court sets out processes to prevent controversial occurrences in the future. This action was not admitted and the courts made no finding whatever on the guilt or otherwise of any party.

With President Sirisena under pressure both from the prime minister as well as the SLFP he leads, his first preference undoubtedly will be to find a via media out of the conundrum. He would obviously not want to offend his prime minister whose party played a major role in his election last year. He has also to be mindful of the opinion of the SLFP he leads. Perhaps he can take refuge in the first principle that there must be no conflict of interest between the functions of office holders and business interests of themselves and their close family members. For example a trawler owner should not be the minister of fisheries or somebody running a private hospital the minister of health.

The outrage of the joint opposition over the so-called bond scam and conflict of interest issues was somewhat dented when it was revealed that the former governor’s sister was also a director of Mahendran’s son-in-law’s Perpetual Treasuries when Cabraal was governor! She resigned after the controversy hit the public domain.

6 Responses to “Sirisena’s conundrum”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Ranil is not Mr Clean. He is the biggest crook Sri Lanka ever had. All his efforts are to make his friends and co- religionists rob and prosper. He appoints a crook and then looks for the cabinet approval for the crook’s continued presence as the Governor of the Central Bank. In the first place it was Aappaya as the President who should have appointed the Governor of the Central Bank and not crooked Ranil as the Prime Minister.

    In future similar appointments the appointees must be made to go before a commission to answer questions on their eligibility as is done now in the US. Filling of highly sensitive positions with kith and kin should stop. Even the position of the High Commissioner of Britain should go through a vetting process to see that a person that befits the position gets appointed.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Ranil does all his stealing through others. For instance the bond fraud includes enough money for Ranil, finance minister and host of others. That is why they cannot remove him.

  3. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Conundrum? What conundrum? Maru sira aka vairapala sorrysena has no saying in any of the matters in Sri Lanka
    today. I totally agree with Ratanapala and Dilrook. Catholic traitor pol pot ponil wickramasinhalakiller is the
    one making all the decisions in Sri Lanka today. Vairapala with his nivata hinawa being trampled by the pm (not
    pathala man, prime minister, you decide). Look at maha horandran at the CB. Whole country, except some
    four-legged creatures in the cabinet, clamouring for his removal. But he is not going anywhere. Why? He is
    pol pot ponil wickramasinhalakiller’s catholic buddy.

    Token Buddhist catholic traitor chief pol pot wickramasinhalakiller never even considered to be punished for killing Sinhalese
    youth at Batalanda Camp with his catholic police buddies. He was never even considered to be punished for
    millennium city intelligent officers sending to catholic tigers of tamil drealam bullet. He was not even considered
    to be punished for 5000 billion day light robbery at the CB with his catholic buddy maha horandran. Sinhala
    modayas can’t see through this murderous, biggest crook. He knows he is untouchable. He takes all decisions.
    All against the destruction of Buddhism, destruction of Sri Lanka, destruction of the Sinhalese race to please
    the minorities and the catholic west. Still Sinhalese modayas think he is an economic osthar. Maru sira aka
    vairapala sorrysena is a backboneless, voiceless traitor of the highest cablibre. He is the boss, but he has
    become an impotent puppet in front of the murderous, biggest crook of Sri Lanka. Tamils, mussies and
    catholics must be thinking no wonder the Sinhalese are called Sinhala modayas. Pol pot ponil
    wickramasinhala born to a staunch catholic family. His uncle was bishop of kurunegala. Yet he is a Buddhist.
    Token Buddist to fool Buddhists like thibbotte etc. This religion of convenience has given him the perfect cover
    to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is doing irrepairable damage to Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese and Buddhism.
    Sinhalaya being famous for modayas still can’t his true colours!

  4. Sooriarachi Says:

    It appears Sirisena as the President, still carries immense executive powers to do almost anything. However, the Prime Minister is carrying on regardless, ignoring the President, indicating the President is just a backboneless puppet under obligation to the Prime Minister for something we do not know yet. The President says he wanted Mahendran removed, but when he had the chance to investigate Mahendran, when Dew Gunesekara’s COPE report on the Bond auction was tabled in the Parliament on a Friday and it was put off to Monday due to a lack of a quorum, the President used that time to dissolve parliament and save Mahendran, Ranil and Ravi, from having to answer to major financial misconduct the country has never seen before. Since then, there has been another similar Bond issue providing unconscionable profits to unknown parties. Are these profits being used to buy weak people? It is said a new COPE investigation of this Bond auction is in progress, but is it going to be a white wash?

    As for Cabraal’s sister also being a Director of Mahendran’s son-in law’s company, it did not matter as during her time as a director, similar manipulations by the Central Bank of Treasury Bond auctions did NOT take place. So I cant see how the allegations against Mahendran being dented.

    It is obvious Mahendran should not only be removed but also, investigated for the two Bond auctions that is beginning to bring down the country’s economy to its knees and make Sri Lanka go to the IMF with a begging bowl. Who could be behind this despicable plan?

    As for Ranil, many tried to portray him as a Mr Clean, but these two scandals have exposed him to the bone and his reputation is in tatters.

    Irrespective of politics, the country urgently needs a honest and clever Governor for the Central Bank.

  5. Kumari Says:

    Do not worry. Puppet Sirisena will do exactly as told by ROW and CIA. Their worry is not our central bank, but the new constitution.

  6. Wetta Says:

    Quote …”He saw this as a gross violation of collective responsibility. Theirs was a coalition government taking common decisions and cabinet ministers, particularly, as members of the executive branch of the government had a particular duty of collective responsibility.”

    Isn’t it the joke of the century when a man (Ranil) who made a “singular” dictator type decision to appoint Central Bank Governor is now demanding “collective and common” support/responsibility to keep the thief on the throne. Why couldn’t he seek the “collective and common” agreement to appoint Mahendran, in the first instance in 2015?

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